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Lovers quarrel? Expert says couple-led businesses likely to result in split

Gaelene Adams Love, managing director and business relationship coach at Team Fusion, a consultancy specialising in small business advice, says couples in business together are more likely to divorce, often over disputes about who’s the boss.

Recent research run by Team Fusion, looked at couple-led businesses in New Zealand and the challenges they face.

The key takeaway? Couples are more likely to divorce than couples who do not own a business together.

“Role disputes would rank in the top three reasons why couples in business get divorced because the personal aspect of the relationship can create conflicts over roles and responsibilities,” says Adams Love.

“Without clear boundaries, these conflicts often spill over into the personal relationship.”

From personal experience, Adams Love says that when she worked with her former husband, she learned that having clearly defined roles is critical to both the relationship’s survival and the success of running a business together.

Clearly defined roles are necessary, she adds, saying it can help navigate issues that may arise when it comes to power struggles and support in decision making.

“More often than not, the male in the relationship will take personal responsibility for the failure or success of the business because he doesn’t want to let his family down. This can often create a scenario where the business becomes the mistress in the relationship,” says Adams Love.

Read more: Reality check: Study reveals why women quit in entrepreneurship

“Whichever way you look at it, however, the buck has to stop somewhere. Couples should agree on who has the final decision when neither party can reach an agreement.”

The two other big reasons couples split when working together in a business are financial stresses and lack of personal time due to the company becoming all-consuming.

“Perceptions of mistrust can arise when financial and business-related stresses are not openly discussed. Aligning goals and creating a clear vision for both the business and the personal relationship can mitigate these tensions,” she explains.

So, what do you do when you run a business with your partner but want to keep the fire alive? Adams Love there are three essential things.

  1. Define Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly outline who is responsible for what and establish decision-making protocols to avoid conflicts.
  2. Maintain Clear Communication: Regularly discuss business and personal issues openly. Ensure that both partners’ perspectives and concerns are heard. Take more lunch breaks together.
  3. Plan for the Future Together: Create a shared vision and set milestones for both the business and the personal relationship. This alignment helps in staying united and focused on common goals.

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